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The One Man MMO Project
The story of a lone developer's quest to build an online world :: MMO programming, design, and industry commentary
How I reduced my game's Build Time 85%
By Robert Basler on 2013-12-12 11:41:49
Homepage: email:one at onemanmmo dot com

For some time now I've suffered with abominable build times on my optimized builds. A full rebuild of just the client in Debug takes 160,825ms but in Release it takes 371,462ms. So for less code, that's a whopping 231% increase in build time just for optimization!

I build three different configurations of my game. Debug is a build with all debugging features enabled, ASSERT's on and debug trace output. Release has full optimization, no ASSERT's or trace output. I also have an Abort built which is fully optimized with ASSERT's and no trace output. I use the Abort build often, but the 6 minute build times even for a one-line change make it super-inconvenient to iterate.

My first experiment was to try Full Optimization instead of Optimize for Speed. That reduced the time to 364,315 or a 2% savings. Not really worth doing.

Next I tried changing Tools, Options, Maximum Concurrent C++ compilations to 8 (to match my CPU) which made no difference.

Then I discovered C++, General, Multi-Processor Compilation. Setting it to YES reduced the build time to 294,295 or a 21% reduction. Now we're getting somewhere. (Note this isn't compatible with incremental builds, so I don't use it on the debug build.)

As an experiment I turned off optimization entirely, that gave me 128,438. I turned off generation of debug info, which barely moved the clock (125,873.) I tried /OPT:NOICF which gave me 120,187 and /OPT:NOREF which gave me 125,364.

No optimization wasn't really an option, so instead I tried turning off Whole Program Optimization and /LTCG (Link Time Code Generation) while keeping optimize for speed. This gave me a time of 160,118 (a 57% improvement.) I also tried Full Optimization which gave me 157,716.

The last thing was to try Multi-Processor Compilation on with Whole Program Optimization and /LTCG off. That came in at a shockingly quick 54,188 (an 85% reduction in build time!) Originally my libs were build with /LTCG so I would get a warning in the output that the linker was turning /LTCG on. With that warning the build time was still greatly improved at 63,227.

Adding the Multi-Processor Compilation switch to my release build reduced its build time to 295,166 (a 21% improvement.)

Lessons learned:

Multi-Processor Compilation was off by default for me, this is a huge performance loss.

Whole Program Optimization and Link Time Code Generation account for 57% of the time for an optimized build. Use them only if you really need to.

By Robert Basler on 2013-12-12 13:18:14
Homepage: email:one at onemanmmo dot com
I tried moving the TMP folder for my solution to the second hard drive on my PC, that netted a 5s improvement in full build time.

The big change I forgot to mention though, is that a one file change for the abort build now takes only 10,406 to build which is an immense 97% reduction.

Also, the Abort build still runs at a steady 60fps which is my primary requirement of it.

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